The Next Evolutionary Step for IoT Gateways

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3Q 2018 | IN-5248

The ever-turbulent, ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is pushing gateways to adapt to the rising demands of future markets. Smart IoT gateways are moving into the spotlight with brand new features, entering the very core of the IoT and allowing implementers to take better advantage of an evolving landscape for connected intelligence.

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The Next Evolutionary Step for Gateways


We are standing on the precipice of the “connected” explosion where tens of billions of connected things are expected to be online and operational in the near future. The IoT demands for connectivity, protocol support, software- and hardware-embedded security, intelligence, and data analytics are at an all-time high. Increasingly demanding applications coupled with market competition and technology fragmentation are exacerbating the need for reliable gateway solutions.

ABI Research posits that this, in turn, has caused an evolutionary shift toward the next step of gateway offerings: truly intelligent, interoperable, customizable IoT gateways hardened enough to withstand the physical and digital perils of the new era and powerful enough to handle the rising demands for machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). From data communications players like Multitech, to Integrated Circuit (IC) leaders like NXP, all the way to IoT-focused vendors like Sierra Wireless, smart IoT gateways are finding their way into the market—and each has unique technological features and market characteristics.

Technology and Ecosystem Support to Define Competitiveness


Market competitiveness in the IoT will now be measured according to very precise technological gateway features that will enable completely new monetization, device management, ecosystem support, business strategy, and data exploitation opportunities. These features define the roles of IoT gateways and will continue to evolve in tandem with other technological innovations, from near-future ones like the expansion of Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) offerings for smart cities to the development of AI-centric gateways with the ability to self-mitigate damage from cyberthreats. Below are six of the most important characteristics of smart IoT gateways.

Legacy Support: While this continues to come as a surprise to some companies, legacy support and the ability to integrate older devices and systems under one unified fleet and platform still is (and will continue to be) a vital feature of gateways. Note that the high-tech equipment of today that is created to have 10-plus years of life expectancy will make up the legacy systems of tomorrow.

Gearing up for IoT: While they still have their place in their respective markets, the standard, humble gateways used in consumer, commercial, and enterprise settings just don’t cut it for IoT. Gateways are gearing up for the multifaceted challenges of IoT, including device ruggedization, temperature and humidity resistance, advanced cooling systems, and life expectancy, among others.

Edge Computing: Powerful edge gateways have already made their appearance, following the general market trend—a trend that has been seen in many other tech-related markets. This will be the foundation on which the future of AI-based gateway systems will be built and will include a sizable increase in computing power.

Cloud Symbiosis: There is no debate between edge computing versus cloud computing when it comes to smart IoT gateways. Both are expected to form a symbiotic relationship by feeding off each other's strengths, performing analysis at the edge, lowering overall bandwidth costs, increasing flexibility, and decreasing latency—bringing us another step closer to true real-time management and security systems.

Customizability and Machine Learning: A crucial characteristic of future IoT gateways also pertains to their ability to be highly flexible, modifiable, and adaptible to each organization's needs—surpassing the rigidity of a vertical-only focused design. As intelligence gathering becomes even more important in the near future, the ability to create advanced, custom-created, and specifically trained machine learning algorithms capable of tackling unique challenges for each vendor, application, or vertical will improve.

Innovative Players Lead the Charge, But Challenges Still Remain


This multifaceted shift is currently driven by innovative players who focus their efforts on specific technologies and tackle different IoT verticals. Companies like Cradlepoint, Sierra Wireless, Multitech, B+B SmartWorx (part of Advantech), Dell, Kerlink, and Libelium are all addressing different technological aspects: edge computing, cellular and LPWA functionality, data-centric programmability, software development kit design, platform support, device management and onboarding, etc.

Gateways are the key devices which allow protocol translation to Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) and enable cloud-based device onboarding and management processes—key enablers for the IoT. While tremendously interesting and innovative, the transition expected for gateways is not without its fair share of dangers. The fact that companies shift the security burden to gateways, coupled with a sizable increase in computing power and a high level of protocol support in communication modules, has also caused a side effect of severely increasing the attack surface for gateways and the solutions they enable. Implementers that manage to overcome the rising challenges created by new gateway capabilities not only will be able to find a sizable, profitable market during the process but will also be able to take better advantage of the evolving landscape by becoming an indispensable part in creating connected intelligence.


Companies Mentioned